Just as the Chicago 7 became an iconic symbol for popular resistance in 1968, the Capitol 9 may become shorthand for youth resistance to Arizona's harsh new immigrant detention law.
Bill 1070 gives authorities the right to detain people who they suspect are in the country illegally.
Prior to the law passing, college students and community members took it upon themselves to educate others on what this law would mean if passed. Twenty-year-old Daisy Cruz is one of the nine students better known as the Capital 9 that were arrested for disorderly conduct after they chained themselves to Arizona’s Capitol building. Cruz tells Youth Radio the idea arose after the bill passed the Senate.
Q: Why chain yourself to the Capitol building?
A: Well, we decided to take it to the next level just because as a movement we had already tried protesting, rallying, petitions, calling senators' offices; we had already tried everything, and felt this was the necessary next step -- a non-violent civil disobedience. We were arrested and taken to the holding cell in downtown Phoenix. Eight of us were there until two in the morning.
Q:What kind of support have you gotten from the youth?
A: The following days after we were arrested there were massive walkouts. Youth organized against their administration -- even though the principal was yelling on those speaker phones not to walk out, they still mobilized. Some schools walked for miles and miles before they even got to the Capitol building. We hadn’t seen that in awhile in Arizona, so that was very empowering for the rest of the community. We feel very accomplished. We were scared that it would just be another little protest that would be overlooked. Our goal was to call for action, not just from Arizona, but from the nation, to know what’s going on in Arizona. To know that it changed the whole dialogue -- the way people were talking about the issue and how people were reacting -- it completely changed the frame in the way this bill was being presented. We all feel very accomplished. We all are very grateful that it went on this path cause this is what we originally wanted.
Q: How did Capitol 9 form?
A: It’s important to mention that even though the media calls us Capitol 9 there were 20-plus people that helped in the organizing of this, so there wasn’t just nine of us. Those who wanted to participate in a more direct action decided to keep meeting, eventually it kept dwindling down to those who actually participated. After that [arrest] it was consecutive meetings everyday 'til like two in the morning, discussing important issues and making sure we came to consensuses on everything. That was the cool part about organizing, we didn’t have a leader, we didn’t have an agenda, we didn’t have an organization and it made organizing easier in that sense because we discussed things right there and then, and what we wanted as a group. Only the members that were willing to get arrested would vote.
Q: What are some of the things your group is doing to educate others about the bill?
A: Some of us asked the group to create a pamphlet with main points that stood out from the bill and how people could get involved, so that we can pass it out to other students and at several events.
Q: Why is immigration such an important issue for you?
A: Personally, I live here, my family lives here, my community, I feel responsible for every one of my relations. I know that this will have a dramatic impact on the community—it pretty much legalizes racial profiling. We figured, we’re either gonna get arrested now and make a statement or it’s going to turn into such a police state that is going to happen because we don’t have an identification on us.
Q: How will this new law affect you and your family?
A: Well, I don’t look any different from anybody who is undocumented or documented. My parents are from Mexico, I was born here and my brother was born in Mexico—they’re residents. I have cousins, aunts, and uncles who are still on that process [residency process] or who have not yet been able to get on that process, so that’s where my family is at. They’re scared. Everybody turns to those who are documented to speak on their behalf. Even though those who are documented are scared, we’re all scared. This bill is making families turn against each other.
Q:Now that the bill passed, what are you doing to keep the movement going?
A: We have meetings everyday on future actions and steps. We...are trying to keep that pressure there...Tucson is organizing, we have people organizing in Phoenix and others in Tempe and it’s really turning out into a large mobilization.